Futures Forum: "The future of parks is in the hands of partnerships"... and... "People in the South West need to be prepared to fight to preserve their parks and green areas, to save them from the threat of sell-offs or neglect."
And a very obvious example is the controversial 'garden grab' by developers at Knowle - all with the support of the planning authority:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and green space
The Mail has just launched a campaign - although the EDW blog notes that it's a little overdue:
Open spaces: tot little and so very, very late | East Devon Watch
Nevertheless, here's the full story from today's paper:
Save our parks! Petition launched to rescue open spaces which are being sold off by cash-strapped councils
- The Mail on Sunday today has launched a petition stop parks being sold off
- More than 1000 readers and celebrities back the Save Our Parks campaign
- Green spaces have been paved over with new housing developments
The Mail on Sunday today launches a petition as part of our crusade to save the nation’s parks.
We urge readers to go online and sign the petition – and if we secure 100,000 signatures, the issue will be debated in the Commons. Senior Ministers will be forced to answer tough questions about the plight of our treasured open spaces, many of which are being sold off by cash-strapped councils or being allowed to fall into a state of disrepair.
More than 1,000 readers and celebrities are already backing the Save Our Parks campaign – and last week the matter was raised in the Commons by former Cabinet Office Minister John Hayes. He warned MPs: ‘Parks and green spaces are being lost, eaten up by greedy developers and unprotected by careless councils.’
Mr Hayes, a former aide to David Cameron, also demanded an initial debate at Westminster Hall, during which MPs sit in a semi-circle in a room in the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster and challenge a Minister for a response to the issue raised. That debate is likely to be held in the coming weeks – but the MoS also wants to increase pressure on politicians to meet our demands by forcing a further session in the main Commons chamber.
In an eloquent speech to the Commons on Thursday, Mr Hayes quoted poet John Keats as he held up a copy of the MoS. ‘Keats said, “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness,”’ the MP said, in reference to the role parks play in communities.
He added: ‘Future generations deserve their taste, their touch of earthly paradise, not to be confronted with concrete jungles where once trees grew and birds sang.’
Last night, Mr Hayes said: ‘Save Our Parks is a brilliant campaign and I want to do everything I can to support it.’ His intervention came as readers continued to inundate this newspaper with letters of support, and more MPs and celebrities backed our call for new laws to safeguard parks.
Tory MP and green campaigner Zac Goldsmith said: ‘Parks are vital oases. It would be an irreversible tragedy if we lose more and they clearly need the further protection asked for by this campaign.’
TV presenter and explorer Ben Fogle, who met his wife Marina in Hyde Park, London, said: ‘Urban parks in particular give us a form of escape and solitude. They are good for the mind, body and soul. They are a place to reconnect with nature and to escape the stresses of modern life. I have walked thousands of miles through London’s parks over the years: walking the dogs, teaching the children to ride bikes and to collect conkers. I trained for expeditions there. If it weren’t for our parks I would never have met my wife.
‘But all is not green and rosy. Councils are selling off parks and even National Parks are under pressure from new town developments.’
Musician Rick Wakeman described parks as essential and said their loss was the latest blow to communities following the closure of shops, pubs and post offices. ‘Parks create a sense of belonging. They bring people together. It’s where people meet, walk, talk and make new friends. It’s not rocket science to understand this.’
BBC Countryfile presenter Steve Brown added: ‘These spaces let kids feel like kings.’
'My life's work as a park keeper destroyed by heartless council'
For 32 years, award-winning gardener Peter Fawcett lovingly maintained the parks in his home town. Every day he would spruce up the gardens in Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire, keeping the colourful flowerbeds free of weeds and the shrubs looking shipshape for everyone to enjoy. At night he would return home to his wife Aine, tired but swelling with pride at a job well done.
‘Gardening is my life and the parks were my life’s work,’ says Mr Fawcett. ‘But when I look at them now, I feel sick – it has all been destroyed.’
His heartbreak is clear to see as he shows us around Cleckheaton Memorial Park. Swingeing cuts by the local council have left the park and surrounding green spaces completely unrecognisable from the photographs Mr Fawcett proudly took when he retired in 2010.
The park is now a grim, unwelcoming place. Almost all of the pretty flowerbeds have been grassed over, and there are hardly any plants or shrubs to admire these days. Meanwhile, the pungent smell of a cannabis joint being shared by three youths sitting on one of the park benches only adds to the feeling of decline.
However, the worst sight of all for Mr Fawcett is that of the town’s First World War memorial – bedding plants have been ripped out and replaced with bark chippings. Mr Fawcett, a seven-time winner of the National Chrysanthemum Society championships, says: ‘That is a big insult to the soldiers who died. This year marks the centenary of the end of the First World War and it is the first time that the memorial has not been planted.
‘The gardener has been told to put wood chips down instead to stop the weeds coming up. It’s a disgrace. When people come to pay their respects on Remembrance Sunday they always used to plant their little red crosses in the flowerbed but this year they will have to plant them in bark.’
All the more galling for Mr Fawcett is the fact that the memorial contains the names of his great uncles – Samuel Fawcett, who was killed at Ypres in 1917, aged 29, and Frank Brown, who was killed at the Somme in 1918, aged 21. He says: ‘This year the council should be pulling out the stops to make it look extra special but they have done the opposite. I feel so sad.’
Kirklees Council has slashed its parks and open spaces budget by £1.7million in the past six years. The Labour-run authority insists cuts had to be made because the Government slashed its funding. However, the council intends to provide a £9 million loan to developers building a four-star hotel and an indoor ski slope next to the football stadium of Premier League side Huddersfield Town.
Mr Fawcett says: ‘This council has the money for pet projects but not for folks to enjoy their parks. What they are doing to the parks is a scandal. They don’t care – they can’t, otherwise why would they be doing this? They have got rid of 40 gardeners and closed five bowling greens in the last five years.’
Mr Fawcett has become a thorn in the side of Kirklees Council in recent years with his complaints about the shocking decline of his beloved parks.
He says: ‘No one in senior management at the council has a clue about horticulture. They don’t seem to know the difference between a dandelion and a daisy. But such a big difference can be made with so little money. Great parks lift the spirits and give people something to feel good about. They are vital for our health and our wellbeing. British gardeners and gardens used to be the envy of the world but no longer. Now we are in danger of losing vital skills.
‘It is disgusting that these days it is always about the bottom line. They are aiming for lower standards, not higher. For the trained gardeners who are left it’s exasperating to be told to pave or grass over flowerbeds. Morale is very low among the council’s gardeners but they dare not speak up because they will get sacked. I am speaking up and they can’t stop me. The gardeners around here have been told to stop talking to me. They told my former colleagues that if they are seen talking to me they will face disciplinary action, which is ridiculous.’
Kirklees Council leader Shabir Pandor said: ‘In the case of Cleckheaton Memorial Park, we worked with local councillors and groups who wanted the flowers removed as they had died in the summer heat, spoiling the appearance of the memorial. The loan for a hotel is a way that we can lend, at a commercial rate, to promote investment in the town and I am confident that the scheme will have a massive impact on tourism and leisure in our town.’
'They're taking away a slice of countryside'
A row has broken out over a council’s £90 million project to build new town hall offices, a theatre and an underground car park on a much-loved green space in Royal Tunbridge Wells.
Protesters say the council’s plans will change Calverley Grounds for the worse by ‘replacing trees with concrete and grass’.
Nicholas Pope, chairman of the Friends of Calverley Grounds, said: ‘This is nothing more than an expensive vanity project that will take away a slice of the countryside in the centre of our town and replace it with a drab city park. We will spend years paying for this via our council tax.’
Nearly 5,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org opposing the council’s plan. Protesters claim that renovating the council’s existing offices just half a mile away would cost a fraction of the proposed scheme – and would preserve Calverley Grounds, which date from the 1830s and also have free tennis courts, croquet lawns and a cafe.
Council leader David Jukes hit back last night, accusing Mr Pope – who became a councillor to oppose the plan – and other campaigners of waging a ‘Donald Trump fake news job’. He said: ‘They are Nimbys who don’t care about the park, they just care about the view from their houses.’
Petition launched to rescue open spaces which are being sold off by cash-strapped councils | Daily Mail Online